Dominic West 'compelling' in Jez Butterworth's The River

Dominic West, Laura Donnelly in The River

Star of The Wire in spellbinding new play from the writer of Jerusalem

LAST UPDATED AT 07:09 ON Wed 31 Oct 2012

What you need to know
Jez Butterworth's new play The River directed by Ian Rickson has opened at the Royal Court Theatre. Butterworth is best known for his West End and Broadway hit Jerusalem, also directed by Rickson.

A mystery unfolds when a man takes his girlfriend on a fishing trip to a cabin by a river. The three-hander stars Dominic West (Detective Jimmy McNulty from The Wire), Miranda Raison (Jo Portman in Spooks), and Laura Donnelly.

Runs until 17 November. Tickets available on the day of the performance only.

What the critics like
Where Jerusalem was like a concerto, The River is like a subtly crafted piece of chamber music, says Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. Teasing, hushed and haunting, it is beautifully written, "mixing memory with desire". Ian Rickson's "expertly judged production" grips throughout.

Lyrical and sublime, Butterworth's triumph is the hottest ticket in town, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Rickson's production is "beautifully responsive" to the musicality of the play and "Dominic West turns in a compellingly layered performance".

The River is a delicately unfolding puzzle, says Libby Purves in The Times. Butterworth's debt to Pinter is apparent as the story darkens, but Pinteresque bullying and rage is replaced by erotic intensity, childlike mysticism and marvellous language.
"Extraordinary."

What they don't like
This is not as resonant and public a play as Jerusalem, says Michael Billington in The Guardian, but it confirms that "Butterworth possesses a singular talent". It's a shame that tickets are hard to come by and more people won't get to see it. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.